Beaufort lab gets more political support

Posted by Renee Schoof on April 16, 2014 

Efforts to save the federal ocean research lab near Beaufort appear to be gaining traction.

On Tuesday, Sen. Kay Hagan’s office released a letter Hagan wrote to Senate Appropriations Committee members urging them to reject the Obama administration’s proposal to close the federal ocean research lab near Beaufort.

The proposal in the 2015 budget to close the NOAA lab is “extremely shortsighted,” the Democratic senator wrote in a letter dated April 11 to the chair and ranking senators on the Appropriations Committee panel in charge of science spending, Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

While in the House, the chairman of the appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over science has signaled support for keeping the lab open. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., wrote a letter to Republican Rep. Walter Jones, whose district includes Beaufort, and said he agreed that “disbanding this lab will be detrimental to maintaining the effective research programs and community interactions that staff at this lab have developed.”

“I look forward to working with you in the coming months to maintain the effective science program at the Beaufort lab,” Wolf wrote.

Jones and Rep. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, had written to Wolf on March 31, urging him to reject the proposal to close the lab.

Jones’ office said that securing the support of the subcommittee chairman was a “critical step” in maintaining funding for the lab.

In her letter, Hagan noted that the lab “provides the only federal access to the most diverse marine ecosystem in the United States” and it “employs approximately 100 employees, including scientists who are recognized both nationally and internationally for the high quality work they do to support research integral to sustaining fisheries and coastal ecosystems.”

She added that NOAA has “provided very few details” to support its decision to close the lab.

A NOAA spokeswoman earlier said maintenance work would be too costly. But Hagan wrote that both the federal government and the state have spent significant amounts of money to improve the facilities.

Hagan also argued that NOAA hasn’t provided enough information about how it will “address the impact of this closure on the surrounding communities as it relates to jobs, the economy, fishery support and marine biology research.”

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